The Human Dimension of Nuclear Security: Lessons for the Nuclear Security Community

At a meeting on professional ethics and public awareness organized by the University of Georgia’s Center for International Trade & Security, I spoke on a panel called  “The Human Dimension of Nuclear Security.” The conference was hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

In 2010, President Obama’s set an ambitious goal of securing all fissile materials around the globe within four years. Skeptics are now questioning its logistical feasibility. While it is an admirable and necessary, but complicated goal, investments in nuclear security measures and public outreach would be relatively cheap compared to the grave economic and human consequences that could result from a nuclear terrorist attack.

Read my presentation here.

DNI Drags Heels on GAO Access to Intelligence

The Director of National Intelligence has prepared a draft intelligence directive on access by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to intelligence information, but it is “shockingly bad,” a congressional official said.

The GAO is an investigative arm of Congress that performs audits and reviews in support of congressional oversight and the legislative process.  But GAO access to intelligence information has often been frustrated by resistance from the executive branch, which has sought to strictly limit the conduct of intelligence oversight to the congressional intelligence committees.

In an attempt to clarify the role of the GAO in intelligence oversight, the 2010 intelligence authorization act directed the DNI to prepare a new intelligence community directive to govern GAO access to intelligence information.  The first draft of the new directive is said to reserve maximum discretion to the DNI, and to offer little practical assurance that GAO will get access to the information it needs.

So, for example, the definition of intelligence information that may be withheld from GAO extends broadly to law enforcement, military and intelligence information related to national security.  GAO access is to be denied whenever it concerns information regarding “intelligence budgets or funding, or personnel information that… may reveal intelligence strategy, capabilities, or operations.”

“In other words, GAO cannot look at anything that involves money or people,” the congressional official told Secrecy News.  “Combine that with the sweeping, open-ended definition of intelligence and large chunks of the federal government suddenly vanish from [GAO] oversight– DOD, FBI, DHS, State Department, etc.”

In fact, because the pending Directive would extend to the entire intelligence community, it could actually make things worse than they already are by undermining current GAO oversight of military intelligence agencies, which by all accounts has been fruitful and effective.

Intelligence officials appeared to be taken aback by the criticism of the draft directive, which has not yet been released.  They said the draft is still in preparation and that it is not intended to undermine GAO’s oversight function.

But the Obama Administration has strongly opposed an enhanced role for GAO oversight of intelligence.  The Obama White House even threatened to veto the 2010 intelligence authorization act over the issue.

Meanwhile, intelligence agencies are operating in an oversight vacuum without effective supervision of their spending practices.  Most of the agencies cannot and do not produce auditable financial statements, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported this month.

“The CIA has submitted its financial reports to an independent auditor but has received a disclaimer of opinion due to the inability of the auditor to gather certain relevant facts.  The NSA, DIA, and NGA are still not even prepared to submit their financial reports to independent audit,” the Senate Committee report (pdf) said.

PIDB on Discretionary Declassification, Other Topics

In its ongoing consideration of policy options for “transforming classification,” the Public Interest Declassification Board has produced three short new papers that are intended to prompt further discussion.

The new papers discuss Simplifying the Declassification Review Process for Historical Records, Discretionary Declassification and Release of Contemporary National Security Information, and Regularizing the Declassification Review of Classified Congressional Records.

Interested members of the public are invited to comment on the PIDB blog here.

Six Days of Odyssey Dawn (Libya) Cost $400 Million

The first six days of Odyssey Dawn, the US war in Libya, cost an estimated $400 million, according to a new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service.

“Using operational details provided by DOD and DOD cost factors, a ‘bottoms-up’ estimate of the cost of initial operations suggests that in the first six days of operations, DOD has spent roughly $400 million,” the report said.

“U.S. participation in Operation Odyssey Dawn and NATO operations around Libya raises a number of questions for Congress, including the role of Congress in authorizing the use of force, the costs of the operation, the desired politico-strategic end state, the role of U.S. military forces in an operation under international command, and many others,” said the CRS report, which fleshed out many of those questions.

See “Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya): Background and Issues for Congress,” March 28, 2011.

Report: What NATO Countries Think About Tactical Nukes

Most NATO countries support withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe, only three oppose, according to interviews with NATO officials.

By Hans M. Kristensen

Two researchers from the Dutch peace group IKV Pax Christi have published a unique study that for the first time provides the public with an overview of what individual NATO governments think about non-strategic nuclear weapons and the U.S. deployment of nuclear bombs in Europe.

Their findings are as surprising as they are new: 14, or half of all NATO member states, actively support the end of the deployment in Europe; 10 more say they will not block a consensus decision to that end; and only three members say they oppose ending the deployment.

Anyone familiar with the debate will know that while there are many claims about what NATO governments think about the need for U.S. weapons in Europe, the documentation has been scarce – to say the least. Warnings against changing status quo are frequent and just yesterday a senior NATO official told me that, “no one in NATO supports withdrawal.”

The report, in contrast, finds – based on “interviews with every national delegation to NATO as well as NATO Headquarters Staff” – that there is overwhelming support in NATO for withdrawal.

The most surprising finding is probably that most of the Baltic States support withdrawal, only Lithuania does not.

Even Turkey, a country often said to be insisting on continued deployment, says it would not oppose a withdrawal.

The only real issue seems to be how a withdrawal would take place. The three opposing countries – one of which is France – block a potential consensus decision, a condition for 10 countries to support withdrawal.

The Obama administration needs to take a much more proactive role in leading NATO toward a decision to end the U.S. deployment in Europe. This can be done without ending extended deterrence and without weakening the U.S. commitment to NATO’s defense.

Background: IKV Pax Christi study | Nuclear Notebook: U.S. Nuclear Weapons In Europe, 2011

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and Ploughshares Fund. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the author.

Intelligence and the Decline of U.S. Manufacturing

The U.S. intelligence community will prepare a National Intelligence Estimate on the implications of the continuing decline in U.S. manufacturing capacity, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) citing recent news reports.

“Last month Forbes reported that the continued erosion of the U.S. manufacturing base has gotten so serious that the Director of National Intelligence has begun preparation of a National Intelligence Estimate… to assess the security implications of the decline of American manufacturing,” said Rep. Schakowsky, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Our growing reliance on imports and lack of industrial infrastructure has become a national security concern,” said Rep. Schakowsky.  She spoke at a March 16 news conference (at 28:10) in opposition to the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

The Forbes report referenced by Rep. Schakowsky was “Intelligence Community Fears U.S. Manufacturing Decline,” by Loren Thompson, February 14. The decision to prepare an intelligence estimate was first reported by Richard McCormack in “Intelligence Director Will Look at National Security Implications of U.S. Manufacturing Decline,” Manufacturing & Technology News, February 3.

Rep. Schakowsky told the newsletter Inside U.S. Trade (March 25) that she hopes a “declassified portion” of the NIE will be publicly released.

But according to the Congressional Research Service, that may be unlikely.  “There seems to be an emerging consensus that publicly releasing NIEs, or even unclassified summaries, has limitations. Some of the nuances of classified intelligence judgments are lost and there are concerns that public release of an unclassified summary of a complicated situation does not effectively serve the legislative process.” See “Intelligence Estimates: How Useful to Congress?” (pdf), January 6, 2011.

“With 14 million Americans out of a job we should not be considering a trade deal that will ship additional jobs overseas,” said Rep. Schakowsky, referring to the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

“Instead, we need to work to rebuild the American manufacturing sector, creating jobs at home. And instead of approving FTAs (free trade agreements) that will offshore more American jobs, we need to establish a trade policy that benefits American workers and the entire American economy,” she said.

The CRS (pdf) cited a study which concluded that overall changes in aggregate U.S. employment attributable to the US-Korea agreement “would be negligible given the much larger size of the U.S. economy compared to the South Korean economy. However, while some sectors, such as livestock producers, would experience increases in employment, others such as textile, wearing apparel, and electronic equipment manufacturers would be expected to experience declines in employment.” Accordingly, the “U.S. beef sector” supports the agreement, while some labor unions oppose it.

See “The Proposed U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implications,” Congressional Research Service, March 1, 2011.  See also “Free Trade Agreements: Impact on U.S. Trade and Implications for U.S. Trade Policy,” January 6, 2011.

State Secrets, Afghan Casualties, and More

Despite a requirement of law, the U.S. State Department has failed to produce two retrospective volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series documenting U.S. covert action in Iran (1952-54) and the Congo (1960-68).  See Stephen R. Weissman, “Why is US withholding old documents on covert ops in Congo, Iran,” Christian Science Monitor, March 25, 2011.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan were documented in new detail based on the release of internal military databases to Science Magazine, which published them this month.

An extensive online collection of judicial rulings involving the state secrets privilege and other related resources has been compiled by the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law.

Louis Fisher, a constitutional scholar formerly at the Congressional Research Service and the Law Library of Congress, has posted many of his writings on the state secrets privilege, war powers, and others aspects of constitutional interpretation on a new web site here.

A recent law review paper entitled “Intolerable Abuses: Rendition for Torture and the State Secrets Privilege” by D.A. Jeremy Telman is available here.

“The False Choice Between Secrecy and Transparency in US Politics” by Clare Birchall appeared in the March 2011 issue of Cultural Politics.

The National Archives and Duke University will hold a conference on April 12 on media access to government information.

Search for New ISOO Director Begins

In a process that will shape the future of secrecy policy for better or for worse, a search for a new Director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which oversees the national security classification system, has formally begun.

“NARA seeks a Director of the Information Security Oversight Office with responsibility for policy and oversight throughout the executive branch of the United States Government for classified national security information and controlled unclassified information,” according to a March 21 notice (pdf) in USA Jobs.

The ISOO Director is the principal overseer of classification and declassification policy, and the scope of his authority over classification practice is broader than that of anyone other than the President.  (Though located at the National Archives, the ISOO takes national security policy direction from the White House.)

The Director is responsible “to ensure compliance” with classification policy, and he has the power to “consider and take action on complaints and suggestions from persons within or” — significantly — “outside the Government” concerning classification.

According to the President’s executive order 13526 (section 3.1e), “If the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office determines that information is classified in violation of this order, the Director may require the information to be declassified by the agency that originated the classification.”

With such responsibility and authority in hand, the ISOO Director has the potential to be a powerful driver for change — or a custodian of the status quo.  If it is true that “personnel is policy,” as the Reagan-era saying had it, then the choice of a new ISOO Director may define the character of secrecy policy for years to come.

On March 21, the National Archivist appointed William A. Cira, ISOO’s Associate Director of Classification Management, as Acting ISOO Director, effective March 27.  On that date the current ISOO Director, William J. Bosanko, assumes the new office of Executive for Agency Services at NARA. The job search for a new ISOO Director closes on April 4.